An Open Letter to Pope Francis on Muslim Immigration

By Jason Jones & John Zmirak Published on July 27, 2016

Your Holiness,

In the light of the recent martyrdom at the altar of Fr. Jacques Hamel at the hands of ISIS militants, and mounting vicious outrages in Western countries — including uncounted acts of sexual aggression violating the modesty and human dignity of women — we Catholic laymen call upon you, with all filial respect, to clarify and correct your previous statements on the proper attitude of Christians toward large-scale Islamic immigration into historically Christian countries.

In the past, especially in your comments at Lampedusa in 2013, you have chosen harsh language to characterize those of us who differ with your estimate of the wisest actions for the common good, and the best application of the Church’s official teaching on immigration, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Those who opposed for prudential reasons the acceptance of hundreds of thousands of mostly economic migrants from Muslim regions of Africa were compared both to the murderer Cain and the tyrannical butcher Herod.

This is frankly unfair, and deeply misleading. Was Cain protecting the common good when he slaughtered Abel? Was Herod concerned for the religious liberty and civic peace of Bethlehem when he butchered its infants? Yet those of us who differ with your optimism about mass Muslim immigration found ourselves linked to each of those villains in your remarks. We do not think it wise or prudent to reward migrants for making a potentially deadly journey to Europe on makeshift boats with the “prize” of long-term residence and public support — a prize which cannot help but encourage millions of others to attempt the same deadly journey, to lands that do not require their labor and are already suffering from the intolerance and militancy of resurgent political Islam.

If we might presume to remind you, Church teaching on this issue is quite general and capacious, as the following text from the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. (2241)

This set of luminously clear principles admits of broad interpretation at the hands of those whose proper vocation is to set public policy: the free citizens of democratic nations, most of whom are laymen. While the Church has a duty to set out such general principles, their correct application has always been left to the prudence of statesmen and citizens. Your predecessors Leo XIII and St. John Paul II were quite explicit in stating that the charism of the Successor of St. Peter grants him no special insights into the technical or policy aspects of living out Catholic social teaching.

Discerning that is our vocation as citizens. Doing so as citizens of individual sovereign countries is our right and duty, according to the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity. It would be, in Pope Pius XI’s words, a “an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order” (Quadrogesimo Anno) to deprive such nations of their power to make such decisions crucial to the well-being of their citizens, granting that power instead to centralized bureaucratic authorities that lack democratic accountability, such as the European Union or the United Nations.

St. John Paul II in his March 2000 act of penitence for the sins of Christians in previous centuries did not exclude your predecessors in that high office, who approved the persecution of fellow Christians, the labeling of Jews with distinctive badges in papal territories, the use of torture against suspected “heretics,” and other actions which transgressed “the inviolable rights of the human person” (Dignitatis Humanae, 1). At the times when pontiffs made those (doubtless well-intentioned) errors, there were Christians, including Christian laymen, who opposed those policies, whom history has vindicated. With that precedent in mind, we feel obliged to ask that you reconsider your interventions on the vexed issue of immigration from Muslim lands, and your assertions about the nature of Islam, which we fear are helping to unleash a new era of religious intolerance in Europe.

You have said on repeated occasion that acts of religious persecution, jihad violence, and cruel punishments for such actions as leaving Islam, adultery and homosexual behavior are distortions of Islam. This is a common theme repeated almost daily by Western leaders. And it is echoed by major media — to the point where dissenting voices are increasingly silenced, sometimes with the collusion of Western governments. This depiction of Islam is at odds with the well-funded official teachings from the highest religious authorities in Sunni Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Shiite Iran.

The apolitical, tolerant variant of Islam that Westerners optimistically cite as normative does not accord with the tenets of sharia that are presented in mosques around the world, including many in Western countries. It seems presumptuous to tell Muslims that Western leaders, Christian or secular, know better than their own most exalted religious figures the “true” essence of Islam. While doing so might bear the veneer of charity, we remember that Pope Benedict XVI taught that there is no charity that is not based on truth. It was in that spirit that your predecessor delivered his courageous Address at Regensburg, which clearly outlined the profound problems posed by traditional, orthodox Islam, its acceptance of religious coercion, and its denial that human categories of reason can in any way be applied to God.

As we warned in our 2014 book The Race to Save Our Century,

We must admit to ourselves the ugly fact that Islamism is an ideology and its hoped-for Caliphate a virtual nation (like the Greater Germany Hitler dreamt of). Radical, nationalistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian radicals number in the millions, and seek to control whole countries. … Such groups’ explicit agendas are both expansionist and totalitarian, openly calling for conquest and the domination of every sphere of life by a rigid ideology. Such groups are leading what journalist John Allen has called The Global War on Christians — though Hindus, Jews, Alawites, secular Muslims, and other would-be victims also number on their list. In certain ways for certain unlucky groups, it really is 1933 all over again.

Even as Europe and America reel from terrorist acts committed by sharia Muslims whom Western nations generously welcomed, hundreds of thousands of Christian victims of Muslim persecution languish in nations such as Jordan and Syria — effectively excluded from U.N.-run refugee camps, which are dominated by intolerant Muslims.

These targets of specifically religious persecution, who pose no threat to the common good of European countries, have no safe refuges where they can be resettled in the region — unlike the hundreds of thousands of Syrian Muslims who left the “first safe country” which they entered, Turkey, where they could reside instead of traveling at great expense to European countries or the United States. The wealthy Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia which fund the building of radical, Wahabi mosques and schools in Europe accept almost none of their co-religionists as refugees. This feeds the perception among Europeans that what they are enduring is not a humanitarian crisis, but an intentional colonization.

For Christians to adopt a supposedly high-minded neutrality toward the fate of these Christian victims, regarding their claims on us as no more urgent than those of Muslims with dozens of potential safe havens, seems callous at best.

Surely the most urgent need which Muslims have is not relocation to secular Western nations where they are likely to remain unemployed, culturally isolated and subject to indoctrination by Islamists. Rather what they need, as we all need, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not presume to exceed our calling as laymen when we say that this historical moment would be blessed by the founding of one or more religious orders dedicated specifically to evangelizing our Muslim brothers with the saving, tolerant Faith that unites us all in peace.

Respectfully Yours in Christ,

John Zmirak

Jason Jones

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